Tata Sons Chairman, Ratan Tata poses alongside the Tata Nano, at its launch in Mumbai, India, Monday, March 23, 2009. Tata Motors launched its snub-nosed, US$2,000 Nano, Monday, in Mumbai, a vehicle meant to put car ownership within reach of millions of the world's poor. The Nano, starting at about 100,000 rupees ($1,980), is 10.2 feet (3.1 meters) long, has one windshield wiper, a 623cc rear engine, and a diminutive trunk, according to the company's Web site. (AP Photo/Gautam Singh)

The boss of India's Tata Group has conceded that the company has made mistakes with its Nano, the world's cheapest car, saying it now wanted to change the perception it was a ‘poor man's vehicle’.

The 140,000-rupee (R22 000) Nano has failed to take off as expected since its launch in 2009, with analysts blaming poor marketing and a series of technical problems including some highly publicised engine fires.

Sales have been a fraction of the 25 000 a month the company once expected, falling to a low of only 509 in November 2010. In December 2011, the company sold 7466 Nanos, a rise of 29 percent from the same month the previous year.

Chairman of the Tata conglomerate Ratan Tata explained to reporters: “I don't think we were adequately ready with an advertising campaign or a dealer network.”

Speaking on the sidelines of the Auto Expo show in New Delhi, he added: “I think we wasted an early opportunity but have not, in fact, seen much in terms of competition for the pricing of the car.”

Tata said he was still confident about the car's potential in a country where millions are moving into the middle classes.

Analysts say the Nano was seen as a vehicle for Indians to buy once they could afford to upgrade from a motorcycle, meaning it failed to appeal to the status-conscious and aspirational new middle classes.

Tata said: “We've never pushed it as a poor man's car but an affordable, all-weather, family car.

“Whatever stigma has been attached to it, we will undo going forward.” - AFP